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The room spins, my vision's blacking out, my pulse is slowing down, and my wrists burn with intensity so strong the pain makes me gag. I lie there on the bathroom floor, my cheek against the cold tile and silently say I’m sorry to everyone. My pulse now a slow drum beat in my veins. Thump...Thump… Thump... Thump... my blood pools around me, encasing me in my own makeshift coffin.
Then I hear footsteps, and my name being yelled. The door slams open.
“Oh my God. Sarah? What have you done?” The voice says. “SARAH!”’
I just close my eyes.
It’s over. I think to myself. I’ve ended it. That’s what I’ve done.
And slowly I drift away.
My breath catches, and I sit straight up in my bed. The cheap sheets scratching me. I sling them off of me and turn around and place my feet on the floor. My body shaking, the heat pulsing through me. My wrists burning through the bandages. I place my head in my hands and take a deep breath.
Why? I ask myself. Why won't it stop?
That dream has become my nightmare since that day. And the days after: a blur.
I’m sitting crossed legged on the floor of the room. “People make mistakes Sarah,” the counselor keeps telling me. “You’re lucky now that you get to correct yours.” She’s talking about my suicide attempt. They call it a mistake. My parents, my friends, all the shrinks hear at cedar creek mental hospital.
I call it a revelation.
“Just tell us why you did it.” My parents told me the first week I was here. “We just don't understand. You had everything going for you. What was wrong?”
I looked up at them and simply said, “You just answered your own question. I didn’t want everything.” Then got up and left the room.
I’ve been at cedar creek now for about a month. But it was the second day that I met him. Daniel.
I was sitting in my room. Staring at the ceiling when he first spoke to me.
“So... you're the new girl everyone's been talking about?” He says from my doorway.
Startled I sat up and looked to where he was standing.
“What?” I asked him.
“You’re the new girl.” He said. Then walked over to my bed and sat down. “So is it true?”
“What?” I still just looked at him, not sure of how to respond.
He looks into my eyes and asks. “Is it true that you're the one who tried to off them self?”
I’m taken aback by his bluntness, and decide to play coy.
“Nope, I’m not her. I just like to put bandages on my wrists and stay at mental hospitals. It’s sort of like a fetish. I think I have a problem.”
He looked at me intently for a second then cocked his head to the side, and doubled over the side of my bed laughing.
When he finished he looked up at me smiled, and said. “I’m Daniel.”
I smiled back. “I’m Sarah.” I said.
And in those two minutes I did something I wanted to do.
I fell in love with him.
“I guess you want to know now?” I ask my counselor.
She looks at me. Then asks. “Know what Sarah?”
“Why I did it.” I say. Then I look straight in to her eyes. “I had everything,” I tell her. “I had the perfect friends, the perfect grades, the perfect clothes, the perfect skin, the perfect hair, and the perfect parents. I had everything, yet I had nothing. Nothing. I didn’t have the life I wanted. I wasn’t who I wanted to be. I didn’t want to be perfect. I didn’t want that responsibility. It depressed me. The stress of trying to please and yet still not making everyone completely happy. I didn’t want it anymore. The responsibility of a life so pressured, so expected to be perfect. Who would? Would you?”
She just looks at me, speechless. I just shake my head. “Thought so.” I say. Then look back down to the floor. “That’s why I did it.”
When I wake up, I get dressed and start to head out to the cafeteria for breakfast.
I stop when I notice a piece of paper on the floor in front of my door where someone must have slid it under the doorframe. I bend over and pick it up.
Meet me in the rec room at 8:15.
I smile and glance over at the clock on my nightstand: 8:07 am.
Sleepyhead? I think. Really?
Walking into the rec room, I look around but don't see Daniel.
Then I feel hands slip over my eyes.
I smile. “Hmm... Santa?”
“Ehhhrrrr!” He says mimicking a game show buzzer. “Guess again.”
“Ummm... oh! Hugh Jackman?”
“Ehhhrrr. Nope. Sorry Sarah. You just lost the grand prize of a well-balanced breakfast here at cedar creek.”
“Well darn”. I say. “It was you the whole time Daniel. Now I don't get breakfast. I think I’m going to go kill myself now.”
He looks at me oddly for a second.
“I’m joking.” I say.
“I know.” He says then smiles at me and holds out his hand. “Come with me. I have a surprise for you.”
I grab his hand and he leads me out the door and down the hallway to the boy’s side.
“Where we going?” I ask nervousness making my stomach does back flips.
“Shhh...” he says. “It’s a surprise.”
We get to his room and he tells me to close my eyes.
I close them.
He leads me into his room. “Now open them. “ He says.
And what I see makes my breath catch. There’s a blanket on the floor of his room and a bowl of fruit in the middle. And next to it a bouquet of white paper origami flowers. And next to those a cupcake with one candle in it.
“Daniel.” I whisper.
“Happy Birthday Sarah.” He says.
“You remembered...” I say astounded.
“Of course I did.” He says. Then makes me sit down on the blanket. “I always remember.”
After I make a wish and blow on the candle (there wasn't any fire because we were in a rehab for people who have harmed themselves in many ways) I pick up the bouquet of paper flowers.
“How did you do this?” I ask him. Studying the tiny details of each individually folded flower. The perfect petals all arranged evenly.
“Something you learn when you've been here as long as I have.” He says.
“They’re beautiful.” I say.
“They don't compare to you though.” He whispers.
I look up at him. “Can I tell you something Sarah?” He asks.
“Yes.” I say and lean in close to him.
“Closer.” He says.
I lean in closer. And then his lips are on mine. Soft. Our lips meshing perfectly. His hand reaches up and cradles my face. Then he leans back and looks into my eyes. “Happy Birthday Sarah.” He whispers.
“I love you Daniel.” I whisper.
“I love you too, Sarah.”
“So Sarah. How have you been?” My counselor looks at me. Her eyes searching mine. Her pencil perched behind her ear slowly moving up and down as she chews the gum in her mouth. I look up at her and say. “Never been better.” And I smile. Because it's true.
She writes something down on her notepad then looks back up at me. “Good.” She says. “We are really proud of your progress, and have decided that it will be safe for you to return home in three weeks. Of course your parents’ll monitor you constantly, and for the first month you'll meet with a new counselor. Until we feel you're fully capable of dealing with being in society again.”
I bite my lip, a nervous habit, and look down at my hands. “That sounds great.” I say. Although my conscience is asking me. Home? To what?
Later I’m sitting on Daniel’s bed playing with a paper flower he gave me, when I notice a notebook corner sticking out of his nightstand. I sit up grab it and open it.
1. Watch sunset on a beach.
2. Go to a different state.
3. Go to a Broadway.
4. Go to college.
I look over at him and ask, “What’s this?”
“My list of things I want to do before I die.” He says.
I lean over and kiss him. Then lean back and look into his eyes. “I promise.”
He looks at me confused. “Promise what?”
“I promise you'll do these before you die.” I say.” And I always keep my promises.”
I wake up from a dead sleep when I here someone running down the hallway outside my room. I get up and look out my door. I see two men in a paramedics uniform turn the corner down the hall. The boy’s hall. Something inside of me pulls me towards them. I walk down the hall slowly. When I turn the corner I pick up my pace, quickly turning into a run. My bare feet hitting the cold floor. My side aching. But something pulls me forward, making me run faster.
I stop suddenly when I notice the door to Daniel’s room wide open and the paramedics going inside.
Slowly I walk towards his door, although everything inside of me is telling me to turn around and go back to my room. That he's fine. Everything’s fine.
I’m standing in front of his door. My body frozen. My breath still. My heart pounding.
“No.” I whisper. “Daniel. “
I take a step into the room, and a hand grabs me from behind. “Sarah, don't.” The voice says.
But I keep going until I’m standing beside the stretcher. Daniel lying there. Still, quiet, and lifeless.
I fall to my knees.
“No!” I scream. The tears running down my face as I lean over and touch his. Running my hand down his cold cheek. “Daniel, please.”
"Oh God... no." I scream again. "Daniel." Then I feel arms wrap around me.
“Sarah. Come on.”
“No!” I yell. Fighting the arms around me. “No. Daniel. I love you. Daniel, please? I love you.”
My sobs become uncontrollable, and the arms around me tighten.
“No.” I whisper. “No…” And lay down beside him. “Daniel.” I say running my fingers up and down his cheek, then across his lips. I lean over a kiss his lips for the last time. Memorizing the perfect cupids arrow, his still soft and smooth flesh against mine. I memorize him. His face, peaceful, as if he's sleeping and will soon wake up to run his fingers through my hair and I would say, ‘Good morning sleepy head,’ And he would smile at me. But I know better. I will never here his voice again or feel the warmth of his hand cradling my face. So I memorize him. “I love you.” I whisper.
And then I let the arms take me out of the room. Down the hall, and to mine.
“He had epilepsy.” The voice says. “Nocturnal seizures. He died in his sleep. Someone noticed a sound from his room. But by the time we got there it was too late. He had suffocated. I’m sorry Sarah. I’m terribly sorry.” Then they leave, and close my door.
I just lie there and let myself melt into the bed and the darkness around me. And I make a decision.
I want to live for him.
Then everything goes black.
I walk down the boy’s hall until I’m in front of Daniels room. I take a deep breath, open the door and walk inside. His room is the same as he had it, but the life is gone. The air stagnant. Dead. Just like him.
I walk over to his nightstand open the drawer and pull out the notebook. I open and rip out the page. A tear runs down my cheek as I close the door behind me.
“So... Sarah. How are you?” I look up from the floor into the face of my counselor. “Never been better.” I lie.
“Ready to go home tomorrow?” She asks, her pencil bobbing up and down behind her ear. “Yes.” I say, telling the truth.
I grab my suitcase. Place the folded sheet of paper and a pen in my pocket. Then leave my room to meet my mom at the entrance of cedar creek mental hospital.
She gives me hug, kisses me on the cheek then asks, “Ready?”
“Yes. I’m ready.” I say.
Staring out the window watching the sun slowly fall in the sky. Casting crimson shadows over the earth. I look up out the windshield and see the sign up ahead.
Newport bay-next right. And something inside me stirs.
“Mom.” I say.
“Yes, Sarah, what is it?” She asks.
“Can we go to the beach for a second?” I ask her.
“Ummm... sure sweetie.” She says. “Whatever you want.” And puts on the blinker.
When we pull into the gravel lot, I undo my seatbelt and get out of the car. I reach into the backseat and grab the bouquet Daniel gave me.
“I’ll be right back, okay”. I tell her, anxiety pulsing through my veins.
“Sarah?” My mom looks at me, concern in her eyes, unsure of whether to let me go or not.
“It’s okay mom. I’ll be right back. I promise.” I shut the door and take of running, down to the beach. The wind bringing tears to my eyes, along with the feeling taking hold of me, pushing me to run faster.
When I reach the edge of the water I stop and let the tears run down my cheeks and fall like raindrops to the sand. The sun’s rays heating my skin, soothing me.
I take a deep breath and reach into my pocket and pull out the piece of paper. My eyes find the first line.
1. Watch sunset on the beach.
I reach into my pocket and pull out the pen understanding now why I put in my pocket instead of my purse. I make a line through the words. “Check.” I whisper, my sob catching on the edge of the word.
Then I fold the piece of paper back up and place it and the pen back into my pocket, and sit down on the sand, and pick up the bouquet beside me. I play with the individual flowers. The petals still perfect. Then I look up at the sky, the sun a sliver of orange in the horizon. The wind blows my hair around my face, whispering in my ear. He remembered. It says.
And I sit on the beach and watch as the sun makes its decent into the ocean. Disappearing.
A day ending to begin another.
My life starting over.
“I promised you.” I whisper to him, the wind carrying my voice into the sky. I close my eyes. “And I always keep my promises.”